A public relations and brand strategist, Malana Joseph Mitchell is the vice president of public relations for Spears Group, a strategic communications, creative and PR firm. Mitchell develops high-level PR strategies and manages media relations for clients such as the NBA, Verizon, the National Fried Chicken Festival and NOLA Public Schools.

Mitchell said she got her feet “soaked or drowned” in PR while working in crisis communications as a mayoral fellow in New Orleans in 2005. She spent several months in the city’s Emergency Operations Center coordinating national and international press following Hurricane Katrina.

For the past 10 years, Mitchell has led communications for Lemonade Day Louisiana, an entrepreneurship program that has attracted more than 200,000 Louisiana youth since 2011.

In addition to her work, Mitchell is a past president of the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and is on the faculty at Dillard University, where she teaches junior and senior-level coursework. She said she’s driven by a desire to give back to an industry traditionally lacking in diversity.

“I was fortunate to have an incredible mentor during my time at Dillard named Monica Pierre,” said Mitchell, who has since served as advisor to the university’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter.

“I give out my cell phone number freely,” she said. “I always tell the students, ‘You could be my boss someday,’ and I mean it. I didn’t have a lot of people who looked like me in the field when I was coming up and I’d love to be that for someone else.”